It can be difficult to bring a faith that's developed while you're at college back home for the summer vacation.
I'm sure that nearly all college students would agree they are relieved when finals have ended and the spring semester is over.
No more nights spent staring bleary-eyed at a computer screen until 3 a.m. No more cramming facts into every last square inch of your brain, and no more IM-ing with friends about the virtues of leg warmers the night before a 10-page paper is due, simply because you can't write another academic word.
Thank goodness for three months of class-free bliss!
It's a time to go home, spend time with your family, play with your dog/cat/tarantula, and catch up with old friends. To be honest, though, I've found that summer break can be a very difficult time as well.
Surviving Without the Spiritual Immersion
During my years at college, my relationship with Christ grew by leaps and bounds. Amazing friends, great ministries, and the overwhelming work of the Holy Spirit all played a significant role in helping me grow stronger.
However, I would come home from college this very changed person only to face friends from high school who assumed I hadn't changed a bit. Or, though I didn't have to deal with this, there are others who may be going home to a family that doesn't know Christ. In light of these and other reasons, I've found that breaks are often the most spiritually dry times of college.
It is during these times that I suddenly find myself without ministry night on Tuesdays, Bible study on Thursdays, amazing worship on Sundays, and Christian friends to hold me accountable. It's easy to slip back into the same routine as before — being selfish, not getting along with family, or going back to the same un-Christlike habits I thought I had shed.
In light of going home for summer break, it's important that I not only realize these tendencies toward spiritual dryness, but equip and commit myself to a break that's not only refreshing intellectually and physically, but also spiritually.
So how do I do it? How do I look beyond the monotony of a job at the fast food drive-thru, the reappearance of something called "the sun," the swimming pools, the snow cones (which always seem to melt all over), the family reunion with my weird aunt Viola, the same sinful habits ... and seek Christ this summer? Here are some ideas that have helped me walk with God during my semester breaks.
Even though you won't be with your Christian friends physically, you can stay in touch with them via e-mail, phone, text message, courier pigeon, smoke signals ... you get the gist.
Before leaving for break, make a commitment with a close Christian friend to check in at least a couple times a week. Think of things in advance that may be challenges for you and put them on a list of questions your accountability partner can ask you.
I know, having an accountability partner really requires being intentional, but it will be worth it — I definitely think twice about my words and actions when I know that someone will specifically be questioning me about them.
For example, commit to spending time reading Scripture each day at a certain time. I've found that my time in the Word is more consistent and focused during these breaks if I pick out a specific devotional to go through. That way, I don't sit down and meander through obscure passages of Scripture, but I have a book to help guide me through the Bible.
You could also set a goal to work through your prayer list. I've found that nothing helps me become focused on God more quickly than pouring my heart out to Him in prayer.
Read that spiritually challenging book you've been wanting to read, but were too busy with assigned textbooks like The Exhaustive Encyclopedia of Toadstools by Elmer Spiffenhopper.
Now don't get me wrong, this isn't meant to be taken as legalistic. Setting goals is designed to provide direction for your break — something to work toward. In the midst of these goals, while it is good to remain faithful to them, take comfort in the knowledge that we truly rest in God's grace.
It is wonderful to reach out to your friends who don't know Jesus. However, it's hard to be that shining light for Christ when you are at a huge party where everyone's drinking, flirting and showing way more skin than you ever wanted to see.
Instead, think about which of your friends God has really placed on your heart, and spend time with them in an effort to show God's love to them. For example, instead of struggling at a party, ask a friend out to lunch. It provides a much better atmosphere for conversation, and you can truly focus on showing God's love to your friend.
Family as Ministry
All too often, I become my worst self around my family. I can be selfish, sullen, annoyed and unkind. Sometimes the hardest people to love are our family members.
View your family as a ministry opportunity. Sit down and have a quality conversation with your mom or dad. Ask (and truly care) about what is going on with your brother or sister. Be the person to mow the lawn before people have to go on safaris just to navigate through it.
Trust me, if you take this opportunity, you'll be amazed at the reaction of your family, and you'll be blessed because of it.
James writes that "the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (5:16, NIV). The most amazing college summers I've had have been those which were saturated in prayer. God is faithful to answer the desire of my heart to walk with Him during that time, and He will strengthen and help each of us to do it. All we have to do is ask.
So after you've sold back Elmer Spiffenhopper's text to the bookstore for a grand total of 37 cents (original price $179.99), stripped your bed of the sheets which haven't been washed since the beginning of the semester, and packed your compact car so full of dirty laundry that you could clothe the entire country of Lithuania, head home for a summer full of confidence in God.
Be intentional in pursuing your walk with the Lord during this time, and you'll find that a farmer's tan and a checking account in the black isn't all you'll bring back to school in the fall.
Copyright 2009 Lindsay Talsness. All rights reserved.